Australia’s cruise season, which ends in just a few short weeks, has proved to be the biggest yet, but price rises are likely on the way for next season.

A comprehensive survey of most of the lines that participated in our wave season told us that bookings had been the best, exceeding 2019 levels, thanks to the big showing of new vessels for the first time.

Celebrity’s Celebrity Edge and Virgin Voyages were notable new entrants, and Disney Cruise Lines also had a strong season.

But the ever-popular brands like Princess and Royal Caribbean continued to do best.

Australia’s most extensive home-based cruise line predicts price rises for the 2024-25 season, which means the top tip for guests is to book now to beat the hikes.

Princess Cruises Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, UK & Europe Stuart Allison told Cruise Passenger guests should expect prices to go up next season.

“Cruising is too cheap—I would certainly expect prices to rise on cruises close to home,” he said.

Declining to speculate by how much, Allison said, “I would think that this year prices are probably back to where they were in 2019. And so tell me, anything you can buy in life that is still where it was in 2019.”

He said those thinking of cruising should buy at today’s prices to avoid the rises.

“I think that’s what we should do with our offers – make sure that the people who book early get rewarded for booking early. We’re certainly seeing rates increase now, so yeah, that really is the advice: book early to avoid this.”

Royal Princess tied up at dock. Princes is warning of a Price rise
The success of the Royal Princess has given the line reason to celebrate.

Princess: The season that was

Princess has one of the biggest seasons on record in the region.

“It’s been amazing to have Royal Princess in Sydney for the first time alongside Majestic Princess,” Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, UK & Europe Stuart Allison said. “The 2023/24 has certainly been up there with one of the biggest summers we’ve ever had, which has been very exciting.

“New Zealand is still the number one destination. The weather’s been incredible around New Zealand this summer, which has meant that our guest satisfaction scores have been tremendous. Coral Princess is in her second year in service down under and she has been one of the highest-rated ships in the global fleet.

“I just think there’s a great community on that ship. It’s a nice size, particularly for this market, which is predominantly sourced from Queensland because it’s our Brisbane ship.

Coral Princess ready to depart Brisbane
Coral Princess is ready to depart Brisbane. Picture: Facebook

“Maybe it’s the guest mix – it’s a bit more Queensland skewed.”

Allison said the increased competition of the season, with Celebrity Edge, Disney Cruises, and Virgin Voyages, had been good for raising the profile of cruising. But Australians still spend more nights on Princess ships than they do on any other cruise line.

For 2024/25, Allison said: “We’re excited to bring Diamond Princess back down to the region with, as you know, quite a unique Princess ship.

“So we’re excited that she’ll be cruising from Melbourne for our farewell season, so to speak from Melbourne.”

The season ahead

Princess has no plans to sail from Melbourne after next season and intends to focus instead on Sydney and Brisbane. Brisbane is proving a big hit with guests.

“Brisbane has been good—it’s a really great market, and Queensland itineraries are increasingly popular. I really hope that we see more ports open up. I think Townsville is an option later next year.”

South Australia is also proving popular. “The cruise that we’re doing on Discovery Princess when she comes at the end of 2025 is the most popular cruise in her programme right now.”

Cunard: The season that was…

Cunard celebrated its busiest Australian season yet as three of its Queens were sailing Australian waters. Highlights included Cunard’s collaboration with renowned Australian artist David Bromley. He was challenged to produce a one-of-a-kind masterpiece during only 72 hours at sea, from Melbourne to Sydney from January 12-15.

Queen Elizabeth also welcomed back the second edition of the Great Australian Culinary Voyage, from January 5-12, headlined by local chefs Karen Martini, Mark Olive and Darren Purchese.

Queen Elizabeth also hosted the inaugural Sporting Greats and Wellness Voyage, from February 13-20, hosted by Channel 7’s Mark Beretta and headlined by cricket star Brett Lee, Sydney Swans legend Adam Goodes and golfing hero Karrie Webb AO.

In addition, Queen Elizabeth hosted a world-first partnership with contemporary Australian circus company CIRCA, which performed a six-week residency onboard from February 1 until March 10.

Circa dancers on the Queen Elizabeth ship in front of the funnel
CIRCA performers onboard Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth.

The season ahead

While Cunard will no longer be a homeport out of Australia, all four Cunard ships will continue to visit popular Australian destinations, including Fremantle, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, and the Whitsundays, on select voyages.

The 2024/25 season will also welcome the arrival of Cunard’s newest, world-class ship, Queen Anne. The first port of call for the 332.5m, 3000-passenger, 14-deck vessel will be the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Sydney Harbour on February 28, 2025. She will be arriving from Auckland as part of her Maiden World Voyage. It’s been 14 years since Cunard launched a new vessel, so the arrival of Queen Anne has been one of the most anticipated new ships of this era.

This December, Queen Elizabeth will host Cunard’s Inaugural Australian Literature at Sea Festival in association with Dymocks (December 11-16, 2024)—literary talent including Alexander McCall Smith, Fiona McIntosh and Paul Cleave.

Cunard’s Great Australian Culinary Voyage sets sail for a third edition from February 6-11, 2025. Chef Matt Moran returns as the headline talent, alongside Nornie Bero, Darren Purchese, Julie Goodwin and Katie Spain.

Royal Caribbean: The season so far

Royal Caribbean says this summer has been its biggest season yet, with more than 250,000 holidaymakers joining a Royal Caribbean cruise in Australia over the 2023/24 period so far.

Ovation of the Seas welcomed more than 90,000 travellers on anything from a 3-night cruise to an 11-night getaway sailing out of Sydney so far this season.

In Brisbane, more than 115,000 holidaymakers took their summer holidays with Royal Caribbean, an increase of 15 per cent on the previous summer of 2022/23.

Local Queenslanders made up 64 per cent of these travellers, while 14 per cent were from NSW and 11 per cent from Victoria.

Ovation of the Seas, Sydney
Ovation of the Seas has had a great local season so far.

The season ahead

Next season, Royal Caribbean says it will dial up short breaks with more weekend sailings from Australian shores than ever before. These will be on Ovation from Sydney and Quantum from Brisbane, with a choice of eight 2 to 3-night weekend getaways.

As Cruise Passenger has already reported, Royal Caribbean will welcome The Wiggles next season. It kicks off in the summer of 2025, with the line releasing more details on April 10.

Viking: The season so far

Viking is among those who report a successful 2024 season so far.

“Our 2024 cruise season is almost fully sold, off the back of an excellent 2023,” said Michelle Black, ANZ Managing Director, Viking. “Our focus now is mainly on 2025 and 2026. Plus, Viking has some really exciting developments in the pipeline this year.

“River cruising continues to grow in popularity. Europe remains one of our most popular river journey destinations, given its rich history, culture, and scenery, which can be best explored by river. Curious travellers have become familiar with river voyages as a seamless method of exploring. We have also launched a second winter-only itinerary along the Danube River.”

The new 10-day Treasures of the Danube sails between Budapest and Passau from December this year until early March 2025.

Viking’s newest ship on the Nile is the 82-guest Viking Hathor, which is due to debut in August 2024. Viking Hathor joins Viking’s growing fleet of state-of-the-art ships on the Nile and will sail the hugely popular 12-day Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary.

“The Mediterranean remains very popular with our ocean guests, so we have added new itineraries that take in even more of this region. One of which, the 16-day Malta, Morocco and the Mediterranean, has been a bestseller since it launched last March,” adds Black.

“A roundtrip from Barcelona, which begins sailing this November, it incorporates the best of popular Mediterranean cities such as Barcelona and Rome while also exploring the lesser-visited but culturally diverse ports of Valetta, plus Algiers, Tunis, and Casablanca in northern Africa.

“This itinerary also taps into the continued demand for longer voyages, with guests wanting to explore for longer and really make the most out of their overseas trips.

The Atrium Aton Sofa Chairs with large windows to river views on Viking Hathor
Viking Hathor is new on the Nile.

The season ahead

Viking has a full agenda of new ships launching, new itineraries and additional sailings on popular classic and iconic itineraries.

River cruises

Viking launched a special 12-day voyage to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Operation Overlord and the historic battles of Normandy with the new Paris & D-Day 80th Anniversary voyage from London to Paris, with departure dates running from March through November 2024.

Viking recently expanded its river fleet in Southeast Asia with the new Viking Tonle, designed for the Mekong. The 80-guest vessel will join the identical sister ship, Viking Saigon (debuted in 2022) and will sail between Kampong Cham, Cambodia and Mỹ Tho, Vietnam, as part of Viking’s 15-day Magnificent Mekong itinerary. The ship is scheduled to debut in October 2025.

Ocean cruises

Viking introduces the Iconic Iceland, Greenland & Canada itinerary in 2024. This 15-day voyage will immerse guests in striking natural beauty and volcanic landscapes while delving into the rich history of Viking exploration, allowing for leisurely strolls through the charming streets in ports of call.

The Malta, Morocco & the Mediterranean itinerary will make its inaugural voyage in late 2024. The roundtrip journey from Barcelona spans seven countries in 16 days, featuring visits to UNESCO-designated sites, North African cities, the Alhambra palace and other scenic wonders.

In late 2024, Viking will welcome a new sister ship to the Ocean fleet, the Viking Vela. Scheduled to debut in December, the Viking Vela will spend her inaugural season sailing voyages in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. Classified as a small ship, the Viking Vela has a gross tonnage of 54,300 tons and 499 staterooms that can host 998 guests.

Circumnavigation of Australia and the World

Viking is set to unveil the Viking World Voyage I in 2025. The colossal 180-day adventure traverses the globe, encompassing 37 countries on an unforgettable voyage across six continents.

Also setting sail in 2025 is the Grand Australia Circumnavigation. The 32-day sailing takes guests on a voyage around Australia, offering the chance to uncover a harmonious blend of iconic natural wonders, lesser-known cultural gems, and captivating histories in cities such as Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne. The itinerary also includes an exploration of Indonesian treasures Komodo and Bali.

Expedition Voyages

Viking announced three new summer season expedition voyages in the Arctic set to debut in July 2025. The new itineraries range from 13 to 27 days and explore the polar north in Canada and Greenland. More recently, Viking announced new itineraries in Antarctica for the 2025 season, including the new 87-day From the Arctic to Antarctica itinerary, which will expand offerings to the “White Continent”, sailing from Nuuk, Greenland, to Ushuaia, Argentina, in September 2025. Guests can also discover the natural beauty of Antarctica and South America on the new 48-day Antarctica, Chile & the Americas itinerary from Ushuaia to Fort Lauderdale.

Longitudinal World Cruises

Following Viking’s upcoming third season in the Great Lakes, the Viking Polaris will sail the
new Longitudinal World Cruise IV itinerary from Milwaukee to Ushuaia in October 2024 and the Viking Octantis will embark on another sailing of the Longitudinal World Cruise II.
The new Longitudinal World Cruise V itinerary launches in 2025.

Viking Longship Mani, Expeditions ship Viking Polaris and Viking ocean ship Venus on the North Sea Canal, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Celebrity: The season so far

It was a big year for Celebrity with Celebrity Edge, one of the line’s transformational Edge-series ships, arriving in Darwin Port for the first time as part of a final leg in her repositioning cruise to the South Pacific. The inaugural stop brought more than 2800 tourists and 1300 crew to the Top End. 

Upon arrival in Darwin, passengers and crew were treated to a Welcome to Country and traditional dancing from the Larrakia Nation. Once on shore, Tourism Top End ambassadors gave them a warm welcome.

More recently, part of the inaugural Australian season included a gin-themed six-night cruise to Tasmania with Four Pillars Gin.

Celebrity Edge in Darwin
Celebrity Edge Captain Matt Karandreas was presented with a wooden crocodile after a Welcome to Country by the Larrakia Nation people. Photo: Charlie Bliss Photography

The season ahead

More short Caribbean sailings, appealing to guests seeking midweek and weekend escapes, are the focus of the newly announced 2025-26 cruise season for Celebrity Cruises.

Highlights of the 2025-2026 season aboard Celebrity Reflection and Celebrity Summit include calls to Bimini, Cozumel, Key West, Nassau; and the Celebrity’s award-winning private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

One of the Caribbean’s most exclusive destinations, Perfect Day offers plenty of experiences to create spectacular adventures—whether a dip in the largest freshwater pool in The Bahamas, an adrenaline rush on North America’s tallest waterslide, or a relaxing afternoon sipping on cocktails in the soon-to-come adults-only beach club. The ultimate tropical experience awaits.

Celebrity Reflection will offer guests year-round departures from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, offering over three- or four-night sailings, and Celebrity Summit (also sailing from Port Everglades) will offer four- and five-night sailings.

“More than ever before, our guests are seeking opportunities to escape the every day to bond with friends and family,” said Laura Hodges Bethge, President of Celebrity Cruises.

“We love that we can offer holiday options designed to provide guests an elevated experience that’s close to home while still exceeding their expectations of what a holiday can be.”

MSC Cruises: The season so far

MSC Cruises became the first international cruise line to resume operations from mainland China. These cruises commenced in March this year for the end of northern summer 2024 itineraries on MSC Bellissima, homeporting in Shanghai, Keelung and Shenzhen. MSC Splendida will also offer winter 2024/25 sailings in the region from Shenzhen and Xiamen from December 2024 to April 2025, while MSC Bellissima will return to her home port in Shanghai from January 2025.

The Yacht Club bar on MSC Splendida
The Yacht Club bar on MSC Splendida.

The season ahead

From April 2025, MSC Cruises’ newest flagship, MSC World America, will sail her inaugural summer season in the Caribbean and will host new experiences and venues tailored to the North American cruise market. Homeporting at MSC Cruises’ new terminal at PortMiami, she will sail alternating 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries with stops in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; Isla de Roatan, Honduras; and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in The Bahamas.

MSC Opera will offer 7-night itineraries for her Winter 2024-25 season to the Canary Islands and Madeira to some of the most sought-after winter sun destinations in the area, including Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Tenerife, Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, Puerto del Rosario in Fuerteventura, Funchal in Madeira, Santa Cruz de la Palma in La Palma and Arrecife in Lanzarote.

Oceania Cruises: The season so far

According to CLIA’s latest global report, the intent to cruise is higher than it was in December 2019, pre-Covid, and more cruise travellers plan to book a longer cruise.
Oceania Cruises says that is evidenced by its booking data, said Jason Worth, Vice President, Sales & General Manager, Asia Pacific, of Oceania Cruises.

“We know that our guests are travelling for longer; they are ticking off bucket-list destinations and continue to book further ahead,” he said. “That fear of missing out is still apparent – demand is strong as people continue to prioritise travel.”

Guests are also journeying to more exotic locales like Africa, Asia or South America, he said, and they are also upgrading to higher categories of staterooms or suites to experience the finest level of luxury during their voyage.

“Travel spending is increasing across higher-income households, which is good news for us,” Worth said. “We are seeing that there is still plenty of pent-up demand, and Australians are very hungry to travel.

“The number of international trips is expected to continue increasing in the next few years, and international airline seat capacity is increasing, too, which is also good news.”
Popular destinations include the Mediterranean, Canada, Northern Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.

Oceania Vista

The season ahead

Oceania will soon be launching its new 2025-2026 Tropics & Exotics Collection and Grand Voyages.

Vista, our newest 1200-guest ship, will sail an epic 180-day world journey for our 2026 Around the World voyage, bringing her to Australia and the region for the first time,” Worth said.

Setting sail from Miami on 6 January 2026, Vista will cross three oceans and 18 seas, journey across 6 continents, visit 43 countries, stop at 101 ports, and provide access to 81 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

This voyage will also feature a full slate of immersive Culinary Discovery Tours and entertaining hands-on cooking classes too — an Oceania Cruises Around the World first.
Oceania has also kicked off the sales and marketing efforts for Vista’s sister ship, Allura, debuting in 2025. Highlights aboard Allura include a new Creperie and Gelateria, a doubling in size of its Culinary Centre (24 stations) and a new Chef’s Studio.

Ponant: The season so far

Ponant has started the year strongly with a 23 per cent increase in bookings from Asia Pacific guests during the first quarter of 2024 compared to last year’s first quarter.

As an emerging expedition playground, Japan has also become a popular small ship destination for Australia and New Zealand, with Ponant seeing a 100 per cent increase in bookings in 2024 Q1 compared to 2023 Q1. Japan’s subtropical islands expedition itineraries are very suited to the Australasian markets for those seeking to rediscover this fascinating country with a blend of adventure and luxury.

Finally, the Kimberley also continues to be popular as the ultimate domestic expedition destination for Aussies, with a 32 per cent increase in bookings during this first quarter of 2024 compared to 2023. The arrival of the new 180-passenger Le Jacques Cartier in Australian waters, joining Le Laperouse, is highly anticipated for Ponant’s 2024 Kimberley season.

Le Laperouse, Ponant
Le Laperouse (above) was joined by the new 180-passenger Le Jacques Cartier.

The season ahead

The line says the Northern Hemisphere has proven to be an extremely popular destination for passengers looking to spend more time in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean in 2024 and 2025. Ponant observed a 134 per cent increase in Northern Europe small-ship voyages booked in 2024’s Q1 compared to 2023’s Q1 and a 72 per cent increase in bookings on Mediterranean itineraries made during the same period this year compared to last year.

Extended stays in Europe for 2025 are highly sought after, with lots of guests opting for Ponant’s combined back-to-back itineraries, the Grand Voyages in destinations like Greece, Italy, the Adriatic, the Baltic Sea, and the UK.

CLIA upbeat on record year

The 2023-24 summer has been one of the busiest and most exciting cruise seasons Australia has ever hosted, Cruise Lines International Association MD Joel Katz told Cruise Passenger.

“It was the summer that brought cruising back to its full scale in this region, and in many ways, it has been one of our best. We’ve seen new ships, new cruise lines and new levels of choice for cruise fans – it has been an incredibly vibrant cruise season.”

Mr Katz said the economic impact of cruising has also reached record levels in Australia and has helped bring a much-needed tourism recovery to dozens of communities around the country.

(Left to right) NSW Minister for Transport Jo Haylen, CLIA managing director Joel Katz and Port Authority of NSW CEO Phil Holliday show off the new Sydney Travel Guide.
NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen, CLIA’s Joel Katz and Port Authority CEO Captain Philip Holliday at the launch of cruise season 2023-24. Picture: Grant Jones

“Billions of dollars in passenger spending”

“In many ways, cruising has rebounded faster than other forms of tourism, and the economic effects have been clearly visible. Cruise ships will have spent a total of 1848 port days in Australia by the end of the 2023-24 season, which is 18% more than in 2019-20.

“That means billions of dollars in passenger spending, and so we’re seeing a much greater recognition of cruising’s economic importance among community leaders. CLIA is working to maintain and further develop that recognition, so that cruise fans can continue to have a broad choice of accessible and inspiring cruise options in our own region.

And for the future, Mr Katz says: “The 2024/25 cruise season will take things further. We can expect to see an increase in capacity, which means a greater-than-ever choice for cruise fans. We’ll see a huge choice of ships and brands, a broad range of itineraries and destinations throughout the entire region, and an enormous amount of innovation in the experiences that cruise lines offer their guests.”

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